Heliumwhich offers responsive virtual and augmented reality experiences that adjust based on neurofeedback from a user’s body, received $3.6 million in seed funding earlier this year and signed a deal with Mayo Clinic for the development of immersive mental health and fitness experiences.
Sarah Hill, CEO of Healium, spoke with MobiHealthNews to discuss the Missouri-based company’s offerings and its healthcare use case.
MobiHealthNews: Can you tell me about Healium and how the biofeedback aspect works?
Sarah Hill: So, Healium is a digital drug, a non-harmful coping mechanism for mental well-being and sleep, and it just uses immersive media in a healing way. And just as the media can be harmful when you watch things on your social feed or watch things on the news and it can raise your heart rate, so the media can also heal by downshifting your nervous system.
There are different types of wearables that [Healium] to use. We have two compatible wearables. One is an EEG meditation headband that is simply worn on the forehead. It is by no means a diagnosis. It is a tool for self-knowledge, a stimulator if you will. It therefore detects your brain patterns associated with focused calm. And in these experiences, your mind is actually controlling a firefly or it could be an aura around you that turns from yellow to blue if you reduce your stress. So the media reacts and responds to you and your own physiology.
Or, in augmented reality, just on your mobile device, you can pair your Apple Watch and you can use your heart rate to lighten up the solar system. And if your heart rate is too high, the feedback is that the solar system darkens as a soft feedback to increase your breathing and try to lower your heart rate. So it’s kind of like biofeedback/neurofeedback on steroids inside these immersive environments, where the feedback you get isn’tnot just a number. It’s not just audio. It’s actually immersive media, which we know from research that immersive media is more memorable. It’s more engaging than audio or even 2D interventions.
Beyond Healium content, our core technology allows you to generate, modify and recommend XR content to the user based on EEG, heart rate, skin conductance, blood pressure, etc Important tools in generative AI.
MNH: What are its use cases in healthcare and how are you working with Mayo Clinic?
Hill: Mayo Clinic has a know-how license and is one of the investors in our latest funding round.
Healium is used in areas of stress and for burnout. These are drug-free escapes that can quickly shut down the stress response and quickly demote the nervous system and trick the brain into thinking you’re not in a stressful situation. You are actually somewhere else. And that’s the purpose of Healium – providing drug-free tools that allow people to feel better and learn to self-regulate their brain patterns and heart rate. Healium is also sold in schools, the military; elite athletes also use Healium.
We recently won the NFL Players Association pitch contest. And we were in Phoenix before the Super Bowl, sharing Healium with elite athletes there. You know, it’s the Stress Olympics right now, right? And not everyone is trained for that. And so these are just tools that allow them to see their feelings so that they can learn to self-regulate.
MNH: There is a chair to sit on during the Healium experience. Do you need the chair?
Hill: The chair is optional, but we’re a big fan of the chair. It’s called a Revibe chair, and it’s one of our partners.
We like to combine Healium with vibes and stories. And we use a variety of inputs, not just vibration, EEG, or heart rate. But we also use aromas. And there is another our partners called OVR technology, which is a wearable accessory that has integrated with Healium so that when you have these experiences, you can actually feel what it’s like, which fascinates us. So we’re supporting the folks at OVR because we know that aroma integration has value in storytelling and immersion, and in the rapid downshifting of the nervous system.
MNH: Would you like to add anything else?
Hill: We have a free program for veterans called Honor Everywhere that offers free virtual tours of WWII, Vietnam, Korea, or Women’s Memorials. So if you know an aging World War II veteran or a terminally ill veteran, tell them about this free app. It is available on most standalone VR headsets.